“Two can keep a secret as long as one of them is dead.”
And there are a lot of secrets to be found on the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars. It seems that a year earlier Alison (Pieterse) disappeared in the small Pennsylvania town of Rosewood. She was the “queen bee” of a small clique of girls. She was fond of manipulating those around her, and it seems her head games have finally caught up with her. That leaves her four close friends behind to get on with their lives. That’s going to be hard now. Allison’s body has finally been discovered, the missing person investigation is now a homicide investigation, and the four little busy bees are at the heart of the storm. Then there’s the anonymous “A” who has begun to send them messages that indicates they know many of their most closely guarded secrets. “A” torments them with her/his intimate knowledge not only of the past but what the girls are up to even now. It’s obvious that “A” is close and keeping tabs on the girls. Alison may be dead, but it’s “A” who is manipulating them now.
The main characters as described by the show’s web page are:
Aria Montgomery is back in Rosewood after being in Iceland for a year. It might as well have been a lifetime, because Aria suddenly feels like an outsider in her hometown. She’s reconnecting with her old friends, but only time will tell if their secrets will bond them together or tear them apart. Luckily, Aria has a great relationship with her mom, but even her near-perfect family has its secrets. Aria has one of her own that’s too dangerous to share with anyone – so how can it be that “A” is already on to her?
Hanna Marin goes after what she wants. The more forbidden it is, the better — whether it’s a pair of designer sunglasses, junk food, or her chastity-pledging boyfriend’s virtue. Rosewood High’s “It” girl is an expert at creating the façade of the perfect life. What would people say if they knew about her run-in with the law? Today Hanna rules the school, but “A’s” mysterious messages are unsettling. How easy would it be to topple Hanna’s reign, and just how far would she go to save it?
A classic overachiever, Spencer Hastings balances school, a high-powered internship, charity work, the field hockey team and maintaining uber-popularity status — all without breaking a sweat. This is the girl who could stand up to Alison when no one else would. But when she and her friends begin receiving mysterious messages from “A,” even the calm, cool and collected Spencer starts to show a little strain. And when she develops a forbidden crush on her sister’s fiancé, you have to wonder if Spencer can keep it together.
Emily Fields’ life is picture-perfect. It should be. After all, her mom makes sure everything in their world is just so. So why does Emily dream of getting out of Rosewood? She’s a star athlete with a popular boyfriend, but Emily feels like an outsider. Maybe that’s why she’s drawn to Maya, the new girl in town. They become fast friends, but Emily’s feelings are a little more complicated than simple friendship. The question is, how far will she dare take them? Or will she have to hide them, too? As “A” points out, it’s not the only secret Emily is hiding.
It’s been a year since Alison disappeared, but she’s been present in her friends’ minds ever since. She was their Queen Bee, and the most popular girl in school. She knew everybody’s secrets, but since she’s been gone her friends are beginning to realize how little they really knew about her. (They do seem to know more about her mysterious disappearance than they’re letting on, though.) Now they’re getting strange messages from “A” – messages that include info only Alison would know. They also catch glimpses of someone who looks exactly like Alison. But it can’t be Alison. Can it?
Rosewood High’s new English teacher is every girl’s fantasy. He’s cute, young – and totally off-limits. Ezra knows better than to get involved with one of his students but the heart wants what it wants. The question is, does Ezra have the strength to keep his desires in check? On the outside he’s the picture of the very proper teacher – but on the inside there lies a passion that could be his downfall.
Gorgeous, chic and completely inscrutable, Jenna Marshall lost her sight and gained notoriety. Wherever she goes people stare and whisper. And just the sight of her is enough to chill Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer to the bone. What is it about Jenna that unsettles them so? And what secrets does she hold?
The show is based on a series of books by Sara Shepard and targeted at teen girls. Obviously, I am not in the target audience and have not read any of the books. It’s obvious that the show makes a connection with teen girls. I’m just not sure I understand how this show fits within the template of ABC Family.
I don’t really have a problem with most of the morality breakdowns here. I’ve enjoyed more than my fair share of television bad examples from Tony Soprano to Sid, the Snitch on Hill Street Blues. So, I won’t join the popular rail against the example these girls set. However, for a show targeted as a family show, I have a problem with some of the situations presented under that context. Aria is having a romantic relationship with her English teacher, and the show presents this relationship as brave and fighting for true love. There’s nothing courageous or true about that situation. It would be different if this was another kind of show or the scripts were honest about the issues here. David Chase never tried to convince us that Tony was honorable or a nice guy. It’s the kind of thing any parent should know before you consider picking this one up for your teen daughter.
The story is an ongoing soap opera about these four girls and the secrets they hide even from each other. There are some nice supporting actors and characters here to keep the whole thing interesting. The actresses who play the liars are all quite good performers, and there’s no question the characters are believable, particularly if you’re in that target audience. Production values are also quite high. The stories are a bit tedious, but I’m not a teen girl, so what do I know?
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The image is pretty solid. Colors are quite bright. These are high school girls, and they’re going to have a colorful wardrobe. The picture is quite natural-looking, for the most part. There are 5 episodes on most discs, so compression is going to be an issue, particularly for black levels.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does everything you would expect. There are a lot of ballad montages here and the reproduction on the music is both dynamic and crisp. Dialog always comes through. You won’t find a very aggressive surround use here, but I think that’s to be expected.
Deleted Scenes on most episodes.
Two Truths And A Lie: (6:11) The girls share three facts about themselves. One is not true.
Making Of Pretty Little Liars: (16:52) The show runners describe the show as a teen Desperate Housewives. Of course, it’s not as good. Parents be warned: the costume designer is candid about the show’s ability to have kids wanting to buy $65 earrings.
Little Secrets From The Set: (7:57) A video-diary-styled tour of the set.
It’s going to be popular with your teen daughters. That’s cool, but I’d advise you check it out for yourself first and make an informed decision. Beyond the moral hesitations, I’m sure there is plenty of mystery and romance to keep the average teen girl happy. It might also be used as a weapon to torture brothers or even fathers. Think about it before you buy it. “In Rosewood you don’t have room to make a mistake.”